Natural Rationality | decision-making in the economy of nature


Two New Papers on Natural Rationality

Hardy-Vallée, B. (forthcoming). Decision-Making in the Economy of Nature: Information as Value. In G. Terzis & R. Arp (Eds.), Information and Living Systems: Essays in Philosophy of Biology. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press.

This chapter analyzes and discusses one of the most important uses of information in the biological world: decision-making. I will first present a fundamental principle introduced by Darwin, the idea of an “economy of nature,” by which decision-making can be understood. Following this principle, I then argue that biological decision-making should be construed as goal-oriented, value-based information processing. I propose a value-based account of neural information, where information is primarily economic and relative to goal achievement. If living beings (I focus here on animals) are biological decision-makers, we may expect that their behavior would be coherent with the pursuit of certain goals (either ultimate or instrumental) and that their behavioral control mechanisms would be endowed with goal-directed and valuation mechanisms. These expectations, I argue, are supported by behavioral ecology and decision neuroscience. Together, they provide a rich, biological account of decision-making that should be integrated in a wider concept of ‘natural rationality’.

Hardy-Vallee B. (submitted) Natural Rationality and the Psychology of Decision: Beyond bounded and ecological rationality

Decision-making is usually a secondary topic in psychology, relegated to the last chapters of textbooks. It pictures decision-making mostly as a deliberative task and rationality as a matter of idealization. This conception also suggests that psychology should either document human failures to comply with rational-choice standards (bounded rationality) or detail how mental mechanisms are ecologically rational (ecological rationality). This conception, I argue, runs into many problems: descriptive (section 2), conceptual (section 3) and normative (section 4). I suggest that psychology and philosophy need another—wider—conception of rationality, that goes beyond bounded and ecological rationality (section 5).